47 Rōnin, A Classic Tainted with Fantasy
Many times beautiful, classical stories, when told on the big screen, tend to lose their luster and the story of the 47 Rōnin who defied the Shogun’s orders is one such tale.
The plot revolves around the Samurai in Ako who avenged the death of their lord almost a year after he was forced to commit ritual suicide by Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, a story that has inspired plays and poems.
Universal Pictures’ rendition of the classical Japanese tale of the spirit of the Samurai while holding much of the original content blends in an elementary of fantasy akin to Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings which I believe marred the purity of the legend.
According to Japanese history the events which unfold in 47 Ronin occurred in the 1700 with the exception of mythical creatures, witches, dragons and the half-blood Kai (Keanu Reeves) are real.
Now, there is much debate on the honor and integrity of the Rōnin who avenged their master. However, many people concur that their actions were done in accordance with the Bushido or the Japanese warrior code.
Personally, I believe the film was tainted with the element of fantasy incorporated into the plot. As a story on its own, the legend of the ronin is quite a captivating tale and would be a beautiful addition to cinematic archives. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, we are hurled into an era with mythical six eyed beasts, dragons and a shape shifting witch.
The witch, Mizuki, is portrayed by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi who happens to be the first Japanese thespian to be nominated for an Academy Award in 50 years for her role in Babel.
I can understand why Kai was incorporated into the story – to connect with the Western audience, and create an atmosphere for an impossible love story. However, early on it becomes apparent that this love story will end in tragedy, and there is not a glimmer of hope that it will end differently.
Interview with Sanada
Now, if you are into fantasy adventure then I wouldn’t stop you from watching Rōnin. However, I would suggest reading the actual story of the Rōnin before embarking on this cinematic journey.